The Rich and the Pure: Philanthropy and the Making of Christian Society in Early Byzantium


Judul: The Rich and the Pure: Philanthropy and the Making of Christian Society in Early Byzantium Pengarang: Daniel Caner

Penerbit: University of California Press
Tahun: 2021 Edisi: 1
Bahasa: Inggris 
ISBN: 0520381580, 9780520381582

Ringkasan Review Buku:

Caner provides a couple of preliminary chapters about philanthropia as a unifying concept in a multi-ethnic Christian empire and its expression as a universal ideal in monastic and church welfare institutions. 

But philanthropia drops from view when Caner embarks on a detailed exploration of the five modes of religious gift-giving: (1) eleēmosynē (individual almsgiving) (Chapter 3); (2) monastic agape (Caner might have better translated the term as love rather than charity), increasingly distinguished from eleēmosynē as a higher version of almsgiving involving complete self-sacrifice (Chapter 4); (3) eulogiai (blessings), the purest form of gift, between monasteries and lay people, much more varied and significant than the ampullae (flasks) of contact relics from the shrine or person of a holy man than the word “blessing” usually evokes in this context (Chapter 5); (4) karpophoriai (tithes and first fruits), conveyed to religious communities in gratitude for previous benefits and in pious expectation of future ones (your things from your things) (Chapter 6); and (5) prosphorai (the provision of land or wealth, such as chalices), given to monasteries, which increasingly became private patronal foundations. Prosphorai were given in return for liturgical commemoration, especially postmortem, and were thus the form of transfer to which the donor’s name was most closely attached (Chapter 7).

No such bald summary could do justice to the richness of the exposition, which rests on an astonishing bibliography of texts in (mainly) Greek and Syriac, an admixture of archaeology, massive secondary reading, and a telling but discreet invocation of theorists of “the gift” from Mauss to Derrida.2 The principal method is avowedly philological— using the search facilities of databases, as well as traditional close reading, to establish the usage and context of the key Greek terms. But the textual evidence is never allowed to float free of social and economic realities; Caner deftly exhibits the difficulty of implementation inherent in each mode of giving. The chapters are long, with their subsections not always clearly signposted, and the concluding summary is brief, a mere 2 pages of the 237 pages of text. The book thus demands but will repay, multiple readings. It is a gift to the scholarship of its subject.

By Peregrine Horden @ 

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